An Open Letter to Our President

Dear President Trump,
Yesterday, February 27, 2017, another rash of bomb threats were called into Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and other Jewish organizations around the country.  These calls that have been going on for weeks are targeting mainly the JCCs and often in communities with small Jewish populations. While many of these organizations are the heart of their Jewish communities, and the reason that they are a chosen target, you should know that JCCs also are the heart of the diverse neighborhoods they tend to be in.  JCCs house preschool programs who have a wide diversity of faiths and cultures represented among their children.  Children who are learning to get along with others who are different have had to go out, sometimes in the cold, snow and rain, to seek a safe place to wait until law enforcement could clear the building of any danger.  JCCs also have programs during the day for elderly people, looking to keep active, people in retirement have a place to go to continue to learn and explore new things, teach each other from their own expertise and and just social in a space designed to welcome all.  JCCs provide adult education classes, giving many people to expand their knowledge base on topics as far ranging as Understanding Talmud, to needlepoint.  JCCs house Jewish agencies, some of which provide housing and food security for people in their cities and neighbors without regard to race, religion and culture.  JCCs are gathering spaces for all kinds of community activities from Earth Day celebrations in conjunction with local government and utilities, to hosting local artists' work and political forums.  All this a membership provides a place to work out, get a personal trainer, play pick up games, and swim.  JCCs reflect the diversity you would find in the country as a whole as membership ranging in diversity across many factors, race, religion, culture and socio-economic.  At a JCC you would expect to run into a kippah wearing Orthodox Jew but you can also run into a woman with a Hijab, a priest playing racket ball and hear atheists arguing philosophy in a classroom.  Yes, as a Jew, the Jewish Community Center is a place that I connect with, but I have visited several of the centers that have been called recently and I can tell you that you don't have to be Jewish to be feel at home at a JCC.  It is America in the best sense of the ideal.  But let's be clear, the calls are coming in because of antisemitism.  The calls are happening because hate seems to be in fashion again.  I ask that you help make it less so.

There is a lot I could say right now, and many people I know will have ideas of what you can do but I ask you to do something fairly simple.  Mr. President, come visit some of these places.  Visit the JCCs in Springfield, MA, Tucson, AZ, Nashville, TN and my own in Indianapolis, IN.  It would be a great photo op for you and you can talk to the people who work their every day, meet with the families who see the JCC as a place of community where they work out, where their kids have a place to go after-school, where they may learn to paint from a local artist and hear a speaker that might not ever put these cities on their itineraries.   Walk through and shake the hands of the people who now have a visceral reaction when the phone rings with an unknown number.  Let them know you are there for them.  Then get the FBI to make these acts of terror a priority.  Imagine if these calls were coming to banks, do you think we wouldn't have a suspect by now?  You have the power to help stamp down this rise in terrorizing phone calls and perhaps prevent this from becoming worse.  I know the Jewish community didn't vote for you in large numbers, but now you are our President and you have the responsibility.  You say you love the Jewish people and want to continue our strong relationship with Israel and that is great.  We applaud anything that will help Israel be safe.  (We can talk later about how best to that,)  But American Jews are being targeted and the terror being evoked is effecting a much larger cross section of the the people you have sworn to protect.  This should not be partisan.  This is your job.  While I applaud the JCCs of the country for being efficient and organized about dealing with these kinds of threats, I wish they didn't have to be.  I wish I never had to see an email telling me what is happening.  I wish that people would see all cultures as a valuable part of the tapestry that is our great nation.  But alas people don't.  I am one voice, who might reach a few hundred people, but you sir you have the biggest megaphone in the world.  Help us be safe, help continue to provide communities around the country with a place to expanded knowledge and understanding, enjoy art and culture and get a little healthier at the same time.  I ask you this as a Jew, as a father, and as a American,  I know if you call the JCCs will respond.  They will welcome you as they do so many and  you will shine a light on why they are valuable to us all.

Thank you for considering this request.

George Kelley

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